April is Arab American Heritage Month and National Poetry Month, so this month’s books are all Arab-American fiction, bilingual poetry, or poetry influenced by the Middle East. For more exciting reads, check out our Overdrive, New and Noteworthy, and Current Literature collections.
Dinarzad’s Children: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Fiction edited by Pauline Kaldas and Khaled Mattawa. The first edition of Dinarzad’s Children was a groundbreaking and popular anthology that brought to light the growing body of short fiction being written by Arab Americans. This expanded edition includes sixteen new stories – thirty in all – and new voices and is now organized into sections that invite readers to enter the stories from a variety of directions. Here are stories that reveal the initial adjustments of immigrants, the challenges of forming relationships, the political nuances of being Arab American, the vision directed towards homeland, and the ongoing search for balance and identity.
The contributors are D. H. Melhem, Mohja Khaf, Rabih Alameddine, Rawi Hage, Laila Halaby, Patricia Sarrafian Ward, Alia Yunis, Diana Abu Jaber, Susan Muaddi Darraj, Samia Serageldin, Alia Yunis, Joseph Geha, May Monsoor Munn, Frances Khirallah Nobel, Nabeel Abraham, Yussef El Guindi, Hedy Habra, Randa Jarrar, Zahie El Kouri, Amal Masri, Sahar Mustafah, Evelyn Shakir, David Williams, Pauline Kaldas, and Khaled Mattawa.
The Situe Stories by Frances Khirallah Noble. The situe, or Arabic grandmother, moves in and out of this collection of stories as they seek to capture the integration of Christian Arab women into American culture. The tales contain elements of magic and stoicism, presenting characters rich in independence and creativity.
Frances Khirallah Noble also wrote The New Belly Dancer of the Galaxy: A Novel about a middle-aged Syrian American optician who experiences a series of misadventures involving myth, magical realism, and the realities of Arab American life in a post-9/11 world.
Talking Through the Door: An Anthology of Contemporary Middle Eastern American Writing edited by Susan Atefat-Peckham with a foreword by Lisa Suhair Majaj. The writers included here are descendants of multiple cultural heritages and reflect the perspectives of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds: Egyptian, Iranian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, Libyan, Palestinian, Syrian. They are from diverse socioeconomic classes and spiritual sensibilities: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and atheist, among others. Yet they coexist in this volume as simply American voices.
Atefat-Peckham gathered poetry and prose from sixteen accomplished writers whose works concern a variety of themes: from the familial cross-cultural misunderstandings and conflicts in the works of Iranian American writers Nahid Rachlin and Roger Sedarat to the mysticism of Khaled Mattawa’s poems; from the superstitions that govern characters in Diana Abu-Jaber’s prose to the devastating homesickness in Pauline Kaldas’ characters. Filled with emotion and keen observations, this collection showcases these writers’ vital contributions to contemporary American literature.
The World is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East edited by Diane Glancy and Linda Rodriguez. This anthology explores how the Middle East has captured the imaginations of a significant group of Native American poets, most of whom have traveled to the Middle East (broadly defined to include the Arab world, Israel, Turkey, Afghanistan). What qualities of the region drew them there? What did they see? How did their cultural perspectives as Native Americans inform their reactions and insights? Three thematic sections – Place, People, Spirit – feature poems and notes inspired by the poets’ experiences of Middle Eastern cultures.
Contributors include Jim Barnes, Kimberly Blaeser, Trevino L. Brings Plenty, Natalie Diaz, Diane Glancy, Joy Harjo, Allison Hedge Coke, Travis Hedge Coke, Linda Hogan, LeAnne Howe, Bojan Louis, Craig Santos Perez, Linda Rodriguez, Kim Shuck, and James Thomas Stevens.
Armenian-American Poets: A Bilingual Anthology compiled and translated by Garig Basmadjian. A beautiful anthology of poetry written in English by Armenian-American poets, along with their translations into Armenian by author Garig Basmadjian.
This book was published by the Armenian General Benevolent Union, which was founded in 1906 and is dedicated to upholding Armenian heritage worldwide.
Beautiful Words: Kasuundze’ Kenaege’ by John Elvis Smelcer. A literary landmark, this bilingual collection of poems represents the only literature of the Ahtna culture in existence. Ahtna is one of twenty indigenous languages of Alaska and had no written form until the last thirty years. Here John Smelcer renders these poems in his native tongue with English translations.
To learn more about the Ahtna culture, visit the Ahtna Heritage Foundation’s website.
Arabic Poems: A Bilingual Edition edited by Marlé Hammond. Arabic poetry is as vast as it is deep, encompassing all manner of poetic expression from Morocco to Iraq and spanning more than fifteen centuries. In its early stages it formed part of an oral tradition, and there were systematic and collective efforts to transmit it to later generations. Poetry not only entertained and delighted, it also served to memorialize individuals, communities, and events. Even today, it has pride of place in the public domain, engaging the elites and the masses in equal measure, albeit in different registers. This anthology attempts to capture the breadth and depth of the Arabic poetic legacy through its inclusion of pieces composed from pre-Islamic times through to the twenty-first century.
Check out our catalog for other translated collections of Arabic poetry.